Welcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Ten of Toll the Hounds (TtH).
A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing. Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.
Endest has reached the river and finds it nothing like Dorssan Ryl. He comes across Caladan Brood, who says he cannot tell Endest why he is there. Endest tells Brood he doesn’t believe in forgiveness and is struck to silence when Brood replies, “What of restitution?” Endest says after a moment he will do all he can and Brood responds, “He knows that.” Staring into the fire, Endest sees again the death of Kharkanas.
Samar Dev and Traveller come across the wreckage of the Captain’s carriage. Traveller says the scene—no dead bodies—was not what he’d expected and he now fears Karsa even more, though he still will face him down over the Emperor’s sword if need be.
Traveller and Samar find a small camp of former Skathandi slaves. As Samar looks to the pregnant women, Traveller learns that Karsa carries a flint sword, not the Emperor’s, and Samar says she is not surprised. Traveller informs her that the Captain was dying and Karsa, having been named his heir, simply “dissolved” the system and freed everyone, taking nothing for himself, making Karsa a man Traveller would like to meet. When Traveller asks if Karsa knows how Samar feels about him, she answers she herself doesn’t know how she feels. As they continue on, Samar notes the interconnectedness of the natural world around them and how it is constantly in a cycle of adaptation. She notes the Gandaru women and says, “Against us they don’t stand a chance.” When Traveller points out Karsa is a member of a “remnant tribe isolated” and asks, “do we stand a chance?” she says of course they do because they can fight back. They reach Karsa, standing over bodies of those who’d attacked him. Just as Samar starts to yell at him, he sweeps her off the horse and hugs her. They all decide to travel together to Darujhistan and head out under the watchful eye of a great raven.
Salind, fevered, has visions of a parade of pregnant women passing through her, allowing her to see the life of the unborn children. “She understood that souls travelled countless journeys, of which only one could be known by a mortal—so many, in countless perturbations . . . [some] died in violence and this was a crime, an outrage against life itself. Here, among these souls, there was fury, shock, denial.” Salind hears a woman’s voice blessing them “in the name of the Redeemer” and then she wakes, healed by the Tiste Andii priestesses Spinnock had brought her to. Salind tells Spinnock she has to go back to the pilgrim camp as soon as she can because her people are in danger. When Spinnock asks what he can do, she says, “Nothing. This belongs to me. And Seerdomin.” She is stunned, though, to learn Seerdomin is missing and perhaps has left the city, though she says “he will come when he is needed,” adding “The Redeemer brought me to the edge of death to show me why I was needed.” Spinnock leaves and Salind wishes Mother Dark to bless her children “in the name of redemption.”
Seerdomin is in the tunnels under the city, following footprints until he comes across four conspirators in the old prison of Toc the Younger. He kills them all, after getting the details of the conspiracy from the last of them.
Seerdomin walks away with a list of conspirators, upset he’ll have to kill again and that he’ll have to return to the pilgrim’s camp. He wonders if this is religious based and if Salind is involved. He decides to begin his “slaughter” in the city and then deal with the pilgrim camp.
Rats, summoned by their master, Monkrat, watch Seerdomin leave. Monkrat thinks something will need to be done about Seerdomin.
Nimander’s group enters Bastion, which appears to be empty, though they can hear singing from somewhere. Aranatha warns them the entire city is a temple and that when the god is awakened, she is not sure if she can defend them. They come across what looks like a K’Chain Che’Malle flying mechanism that had crashed. Kallor leaves them to investigate the machine. They continue on to an inn and then Skintick and Nimander head out to scout. Nimander wonders if the Dying God had come down in the flying machine. They find a large building where the singing appears to be coming from, but an armed mob gathers and marches toward them. Kallor appears and kills a bunch, then they let him pass as he moves forward to look at the large building (the altar). Skintick and Nimander discuss how it’s clear that to get to the temple, they’ll have to kill the residents. Skintick says, “This kelyk is worse than a plague, because its victims invite it into their lives, and then are indifferent to their own suffering,” and wonders if they have the right to put an end to it, but then answers himself by saying there is also the question of mercy and suggests killing the Dying God. Nimander says they’ll try and sneak past with Clip later. Skintick says that will be tough to do.
Aranatha tells Desra Nimander and Skintick are returning unharmed and Desra wonders at the changes in Aranatha: “Too calm. Too empty . . . a kind of pervasive disengagement.” Desra warns Clip is dying.
Crone reports to Rake that Baruk understands, “more or less. Perhaps. We’ll see.” Rake notes, “Something is happening to the south.” Crone says, “It is not in my nature to grieve . . . And yet, what is it you force upon me?” Rake replies, “I have no such intention. Clearly you fear the worst.” Rake sends her to tell Endest it’s time to return.
Now, regular readers of this re-read will know that I’ve expressed my inability to connect with poetry before. So I think it has more impact to you if I say that the poem beginning Chapter Ten is searing and poignant and powerful, and had me reading it over and over to taste the flavour of the words in my mouth.
Another old friend enters the stage in this novel. I can see how people said that the first few books were merely set up for the ultimate convergence that would happen towards the end of the series. I’m glad to see Caladan Brood again, and I like Endest Silann’s observations both that Brood is far more relaxed without the pressure of command and that he is a mystery shrouded in geniality. Part of the mystery here is what is Brood doing by this river that has become a spot of pilgrimage for various Tiste Andii? And is he working in concert with Anomander Rake?
These Tiste Andii who come to look at the river that reminds them a little of Dorssan Ryl—are they searching for Mother Dark? Or perhaps something that might fill the void she has left in their lives? And are Caladan Brood’s words the first hint to Endest Silann that Anomander Rake has plans to restore Mother Dark?
With these little tidbits from Endest about Kharkanas and the denial of Mother Dark of her children, I can absolutely see why you guys who had read the complete Malazan series were after the trilogy that dealt with those events!
There is a definite parallel between Icarium and Traveller where Samar Dev thinks: “…beneath it all was a current of…yes, mayhem. As if it was his own solitude that kept the world safe.”
“He gives us freedom and enslaves us all”, thinks Samar Dev, betraying her feelings for Karsa with every single thought.
I can absolutely see why Traveller would find a man who could release all these slaves and bring the scourge of the Skathandi to an end with just words much more dangerous than one who runs in flailing and screaming, and makes their way with destruction.
Erikson’s skill with the small details, the small stories, is absolutely second to none: “The men had not sought to flee, proof of the rarest kind of courage—the women were too burdened to run, so the men had stayed and if that meant death, then so be it.”
I like this quick examination of pregnancy, and how it affects women—both those who are experiencing it and those who look in from the outside. Samar Dev, having never had children, quite rightly feels irritated at the idea that this is all women are for.
Ah, the meeting between Karsa and Samar Dev doesn’t disappoint. I like that Samar is fighting against the idea that she belongs to Karsa, and that this is part of the reason she keeps refusing him. I like that Karsa was not surprised by her arrival, only that Havok put up with her for so long. It was a satisfying reunion. And that first meeting between Traveller and Karsa—well, so much tension, especially: “What I hide merely begins with my name, Karsa Orlong.”
And I doubt Samar Dev is the only one with a tingling in her gut at the idea of Karsa returning home and raising his army….
These visions of Salind as she hovers near death are very poignant—lives growing, lives ending, lives snuffed out. That woman’s voice that she hears—is it hers? Or is she perhaps the Daughter of Death mentioned by the woman’s voice?
The thing that I take from Salind’s section is the painting of Mother Dark, with her face turned away from her children, and then Salind’s thoughts: “Bless your children, Mother Dark. They have suffered long enough. I say this in gratitude to your own priestesses, who have given me back my life. I say it in the name of redemption. Bless your children, woman.”
I feel as though the whole Mother Dark thing is being signposted much more heavily than other Erikson plot directions have been. Perhaps because we’re seeing alternating chapters that deal almost solely with Tiste Andii characters, that show the effect on them of Mother Dark’s absence.
Oh, how very true: “No tyrant could thrive where every subject said no. The tyrant thrives when the first fucking fool salutes.”
It seems to be an echo that first Salind dreams of births and then we see Seerdomin appearing to awake from his desultory life. It is like a rebirth—his new interest, his actions, his thoughts. “He had crushed down his outrage so long ago, it was a struggle to stir it into life once more, but he would need it.”
I do feel uneasy that Seerdomin has descending into killing. Sure, he thinks that the Son of Darkness is good for Black Coral and that peace is worthwhile, which means killing the conspirators. But it would be so easy to turn it round—that the conspirators are in fact trying to remove alien invaders from their city. What right does Seerdomin have to determine their fate? Also, Seerdomin displays real weakness here—deciding not to go back out to the camp, because it scares him—while we, the reader, knows that there is real evil present in the camp that could probably do with a swift death. Which, of course, makes us think that Seerdomin is in the right by killing these conspirators!
And then back with the young Tiste Andii. It strikes me as a little odd that Skintick seems entirely unaffected by what Gothos did with him. Nimander is clearly developing and changing as a result of his sojourn with the Mason.
Aranatha isn’t exactly hiding her new oddness, is she? First of all knowing that the whole city is sanctified, then saying that she’ll know if Nimander and Skintick run into trouble—she’s bringing the new abilities in a big way.
So is Skintick right? Is the Dying God related to the K’Chain Che’Malle?
It does frustrate me a lot that Nimander and his group are doing so much to try and restore Clip. I know it’s because they feel compassion, but knowing that Clip was going to use them thoroughly makes it hard to take.
This is a very new development:
“Nimander will know what to do,” Desra pronounced.
The conversation between Crone and Anomander Rake is obscure, but leaves me with a sense of things starting to come together.
I think Erikson was still in his poem zone when he continued on with the first paragraph of this chapter; note all that alliteration/assonance/consonance: water-worn, slick with mist, steep slopes surrounding mountainsides, trees towering, toppled trunks.
Endest’s depression at the river’s edge is an interesting little variant on the “can’t go home again” trope one often sees. In this case, he isn’t returning to Kharkanas or the original river (Dorrssan Ryl). But in his attempt to find something akin to home, something that might evoke that same feeling, like what happens when one returns home, it is unsatisfying, depressingly so. But the worst part is not that it’s not at all like home, but that it is a shadow of it, enough to remind you of home so sharply that you feel the loss even worse than before you’d made the journey. One can see the exile’s/refugee’s plight in this, torn from one’s country and seeing something in one’s adopted land akin enough to remind you all over again what you don’t have anymore.
“And as he told you . . . not much farther to go. Not much farther at all.” A bit ominous of a line from Endest. Especially combined with the idea that he was “escaping.” And then this line: “You are assuming, Caladan, that I am ignorant of what awaits us.” And then “I will do all I can,” with a somewhat implied sense of “until it becomes too much.” As friendly and warm a meeting as this is, it is laden over with a melancholy sense of foreboding.
Who is the restitution from: Rake? Mother Dark? The “ambition,” I think, is pretty clearly Rake’s. Though he’s obviously going to need some help in what he has planned, help from some old friends, and perhaps friends who are too old.
That’s one of those nice moves from scene to scene I’ve noted now and then—the shift from the Caladan’s campfire to the still-smoking fire where the Captain’s carriage once stood.
That’s a nice connection Amanda, between Icarium and Traveller, though Traveller appears to have the control Icarium lacks.
I wonder if those really are “ravens or hawks” Samar sees above the charred remains, or if they are Crone’s kin (which I suppose are “ravens,” but you know what I mean).
The line about the men’s courage here seems to knock heads a bit with the “abject resignation”—can one be both resigned to death, “the fatalism of the victim, the hunted, the prey,” and still be considered “courageous” for not fleeing?
I enjoyed Samar Dev’s “bemused” reaction to Traveller sending her to look at the pregnant women to see if they were OK, since, you know, she’s a woman and all and therefore must be able to tell. There’s actually a nice little subtle, sly undercurrent of humor here. This, and her “Now that irritated her” response to thinking the woman seemed to express the idea that pregnancy “was exclusively and precisely what women were there for.” Her understatements with regard to Karsa: “There’s still the risk of an argument” and “Don’t expect hugs and kisses.” Then Traveller’s response to Samar saying the “idiots should have left him [Karsa] alone”—“I’m sure their ghosts concur.”
I like how we get these glimpses of science/modern thought here and there scattered throughout, such as the hint of DNA in Gothos’ chapter and here we’ve got Samar Dev observing the concept of co-evolution.
So another meeting now complete—Samar, Karsa, and Traveller together and moving toward the convergence in Darujhistan, where we’ve had other meetings already.
I’m not sure whom that voice belongs to, though I’d hazard a guess that the Daughter of Death is Salind, as she is a Child of the Dead Seed. So that would be odd to have the woman’s voice also be hers. Though who would be blessing in the name of the Redeemer? It’s a bit of conundrum.
Yes, I’d agree that the Mother Dark references are pretty strong. Though it’s sometimes hard to tell, reading at this pace and this level of attention if a “normal” read would pick this up so intensely.
While we’re on the god topic (Mother Dark, the Redeemer), Salind’s rejection of the “wisdom” of surrender would seem to be directly opposed to what is happening with the followers of the Dying God.
Like many scenes in this series, this one offers up more questions than revelations. So she’s been accorded a vision by the Redeemer, she seems to think. Is this vision really from the Redeemer? Is she reading it right if it is? Is she right in her faith in Seerdomin? What does has she realized she needs to do?
Another nice move from scene to scene—Salind noting the lack of “darkness” (a la Mother Dark darkness) in her room, and then the cut to Seerdomin in a place with “black” blood that was “eager to swallow the lantern’s light.”
It’s a bit interesting that we begin this chapter with someone trying to recapture an old life/home (Endest at the river) and here near the end we’ve got Seerdomin revisiting his actual past. And both seem to come to a decision to “do all I can” or “what was needed.” Seerdomin’s act, however, is obviously an explosion of violence with more promised to come, whereas Endest’s seems to be heading another direction. Endest’s section has that ominous feel to with regard to himself, while Seerdomin’s has an ominous feeling for others. But a reader does have to wonder, where does Seerdomin go from here? Having no rationalization/justification for his past (not “duty,” not “duress” not fear), and now having killed again and heading out for a night of “slaughter,” perhaps the foreboding is there after all.
Yes, more clues that Aranatha is more than she appears:
- She heals Nimander’s hands.
- She senses the city is the temple.
- She will try to defend them against the Dying God when it awakens.
- She senses where they are and if they’re in trouble or not.
We’ll have to see about the Dying God and any connection to the K’Chain. Is that mechanism really a connection, or just a macguffin?
That’s an interesting moral question from Skintick—if these people have “invited” the kelyk, the Dying God into their lives, who are the Andii to end it? Can one simply stand by with the validation that they “chose” this? Hard to see how this ends well though, in this city.
Speaking of ominous: “The Son of Darkness was closing in, like an onyx flower as the bells of midnight rang on, chime by chime to the twelfth and last, and then there would be naught but echoes, until even those faded, leaving silence.” Or “It is not in my nature to grieve . . . And yet, what is it you force on me?” And is there an echo of Shakespeare in there as well, adding to the melancholy: “We have heard the chimes at midnight”?
This is a short chapter, but when filled with a sense of watchful foreboding throughout:
- Endest saying he will do all he can.
- Brood waiting.
- Seerdomin heading out on a night of slaughter.
- Monkrat watching and deciding something needs to be done.
- Nimander’s group trying to see a way out of killing all of Bastion’s surviving residents.
- Rake waiting.
Even the scene with Karsa, Traveller, and Samar Dev, though not so immediately foreboding, has much to say about the long-term foreboding with regard to Karsa’s war on civilization.
Might be time for some comic relief. Luckily we’ll be back to five-year-old Harllo working in the mine . . . oh wait.
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.